Ellin's a strange horse in that she is absolutely composed and self-aware in every circumstance. She has yet to call to any horse in the neighborhood, though they've all called to her. She is curious and not skittish, which is a blessing given her size, and would rather approach scary objects than shy away from them. She prefers quiet and likes to think and solve problems. Her name, "moving" in Gaelic, applies both to her propensity to move rather than be still and her "wow" inducing Presence.
I prefer not to fight with a horse, because once you pick a fight you'd better be prepared to win. It's pointless to argue with an animal 10x your weight over something they don't understand (blatent misbehaviour is another story), so Ellin has chosen, within reason, how far away from her safe green space we go. I also do not believe in restraining a horse while I'm training. If one proceeds slowly and deliberately, giving ample time and explanation, a horse of average intelligence can be broken in an hour or two. It's my philosophy that by tying the horse, the trainer is restricting his freedom to choose. Training ought to be fun, the horse should feel he is being rewarded for making the correct decisions and should be under no obligation. I do train with a halter and leadrope. It's safer for me, the horse, and it gives me an opportunity to teach the horse to ground tie.
Initially my goal was to introduce Ellin to the saddle pad, but I thought it couldn't hurt to at least show her the saddle, so I set my English schooling saddle on the ground. After haltering and grooming her, I picked up the saddle pad and waved it around.
I firmly the craziest things my horses should ever encounter should come from me. The most important lesson the horse can learn is "safety lies near the trainer". If the weirdest things they see come from the person they trust the most, my horses will be fine in just about any situation, and should something spook them they will automatically look to me for assurance.
I flapped that saddle pad all over the place, threw it at the filly, rubbed her all over with it, draped it over her head and face, etc. She watched me, stock still and totally calm. I threw the saddle pad over her back and wiggled it on top of her. She began to nose the saddle on the ground. We went for a walk around the pasture, stopping every now and then so I could wiggle the pad around. When I pulled it off and tossed it in front of her she sniffed it, then picked it up and shook it.
I don't like to push a horse; just because you get away with something doesn't mean they understand. If you skip or hurry through the steps, the horse will eventually hit a wall in training and you will waste much more time filling in the gaps than if you had proceeded logically and slowly in the beginning. Likewise, it's important to end on a positive note every time, giving the horse something to think about and also feeling successful.
However, the Wonderful Filly is SO smart, and SO eager, it's hard to resist temptation. Ellin tried to pick the saddle up both by the stirrup leather and the flap, so I tossed the pad back up and picked up the saddle. She sniffed it, licked the seat, and stood still. I eased the saddle onto her back and pulled the girth under her, then tightened it one hole at a time. Again, we walked around the pasture, then I removed the saddle and rubbed her back. She tried to pick the saddle up again.
This week Ellin has been under my new Aussie saddle, which means she's carrying about 40lbs. Additionally, she's been bridled twice with a Tom Thumb bit. I worried about bitting her as I'd been unable to explain the need for a bit to her satisfaction. Her ultimate aim in life is to run, and she's thrilled that I'm devoted to her cause. She understands that the saddle holds the rider, and she doesn't mind someone being along for the ride as long as she gets to run. The bridle, however, makes no sense to her, as she feels she'll know where to go all by herself.
Ellin is HIGHLY motivated by food and orally fixated to boot, so she pretty much sucked the bit into her mouth. It took her maybe fifteen minutes to figure out how to eat with it. We've now ventured up and down Gordon Ct. twice; the next step is to get all the way down Gordon Dr. and back! I'm hoping to back her with Mr. Bluejeans by the end of the week, but that depends on weather and available help.